Employing more aliases than a con artist, 1991 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee LaVern Baker was born Delores Williams in 1929. The niece of blues great Memphis Minnie, she took the name of Little Miss Sharecropper for her first professional engagements in 1946. The early Fifties found her cutting tracks as Bea Baker; finally, joining the Todd Rhodes Orchestra in 1952, she began calling herself LaVern Baker. It wasn't until the next year, however, when she joined Atlantic Records, that this exuberant belter hit her stride. Working with master Atlantic producers Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler, and backed by killer players like saxophonists Sam Taylor and King Curtis, guitarists Mickey Baker and Bucky Pizzarelli, drummer Connie Kay and pianist Hank Jones, she reeled off a string of sexy, high-spirited hits: "Tweedle Dee," "Bop-Ting-a-Ling," "I Cried A Tear" and her signature song "Jim Dandy." The latter tale of a gentleman given to helping ladies in trouble was penned by Lincoln Chase and given an energetic R&B punch by Baker in 1956. Initially released as a single, the song also appeared on Baker's second LP, LaVern Baker (1957). "Jim Dandy" was given a Southern rock re-working in the Seventies, when Black Oak Arkansas covered it for their 1973 release, High on the Hog. That version reached Number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Baker eventually bolted the States to live in the Philippines. She returned in the late Eighties, vocal skills intact, and delivered fiery performances at Atlantic Records' 40th birthday bash in 1988 and at the 1991 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. She also succeeded former labelmate Ruth Brown in the Broadway revue Black and Blue. Baker died on March 10, 1997. LaVern Baker is among the female artists featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Women Who Rock exhibit, on display through February.
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